Obama Woos Latino Voters

Written by Ralph E. Stone. Posted in Healthcare, Immigration, Opinion, Politics

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Published on June 29, 2012 with No Comments

President Barack Obama. File photo by Luke Thomas.

By Ralph E. Stone

June 29, 2012

In winning the presidency in 2008, Barack Obama won about 67 percent of the Latino vote. He probably will need to win at least that percentage to win reelection. There are about 21.5 million Latino voters –  4.4 million potential voters in California – now eligible to vote in the November 2012 presidential election, with about 60 percent registered to vote. If registration drives are successful between now and the election, the number of eligible Latino voters will increase.

Latino voters have a chance to influence the outcome for president in at least 24 states. The top ten states with high concentrations of potential Latino voters are California, Texas, New York, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico, Virginia, and Nevada. In 2008, Democrats won California, New York, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, and Virginia.

Two recent events may increase Obama’s chances of gathering a large percentage of the Latino vote.

The first was the presidential announcement that “prosecutorial discretion” would be exercised to halt deportation proceedings against young undocumented persons with spotless police records and honorably discharged veterans. However, it was not an executive order that federal agencies are bound by law to carry out. Rather, it was a presidential announcement accompanied by a low-level memo. Will the memo be followed by U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement, which has a history of deporting everyone it could lay hands on? Regardless, the announcement appears to be a hit among Latinos. In a poll conducted by Quinnipiac University conducted between June 19-25, Obama’s shift on immigration policy has boosted his support in the key battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. In Florida, which has a larger Latino population than the other two states, the effect of Obama’s immigration stance is key. Latino voters in Florida currently back the president over Romney 56 percent to 32 percent, a five-point jump from before the announcement. And the immigration policy itself has wide support, favored 58 percent to 33 percent by Floridians.

Obama holds his widest lead in Ohio, where he’s ahead of Romney by nine points, 47 percent to 38 percent. Similar to Florida, the president’s immigration policy is popular (52 percent for with 38 percent against) and his widest demographic leads are with women and minority voters.

Likewise Obama’s immigration policy is favored by Pennsylvania voters 51 percent to 41 percent.

The second event that are likely to boost Obama’s chances with Latino voters is the recent Supreme Court split decision in Arizona v. United States, which struck down the harshest part of the Arizona law, which made it a state crime for an immigrant to fail to carry federal registration papers and invalidated sections that authorized jail time for illegal immigrants who seek work in Arizona and gave power to local police to arrest immigrants suspected of offenses. The court did not strike the “show me your papers” provision that allows law enforcement officers to check up on whether someone is legally in the country or not. But the court signaled that it could be challenged again in the future, depending on how the provision is applied. Latinos dislike the “show me your papers” provision and may bring out the Latino vote. The decision is considered a victory for the Obama administration and may make Arizona a battleground state.

How will Thursday’s Supreme Court decision in National Association of Independent Business v. Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services upholding the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) in toto effect the Latino vote? Back in 2011, Latinos generally had a favorable view of ObamaCare.

Obama’s strategy in selling ObamaCare is to highlight in Spanish-language ads the President’s record on healthcare, touting a record that includes making affordable healthcare available to up to 9 million previously uninsured Latinos by 2014, enabling 736,000 young Latinos to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans, strengthening Medicare so that 1.2 million Latino beneficiaries can receive free preventive screenings and affordable prescription drugs, and making sure that millions of Latino will no longer be denied insurance or charged more for insurance because of their gender or pre-existing condition. What will not be mentioned is the Catholic Church’s opposition to ObamaCare’s abortifacient mandate. Remember, about 70 percent of U.S. Catholics are Latino. However, support may weaken among Latinos if their economic conditions deteriorate and health care costs continue to rise.

President Obama appears to be on course to garner a large percentage of the Latino vote. But there is four months till the election and anything can happen between now and then.

Ralph E. Stone

Ralph E. Stone

I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since retirement involved in domestic violence prevention and consumer issues.

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